Felipe Nerio Espinosa (1836-1863) – A member of the “Bloody Espinosa Gang,” Felipe was born about 1836 in Vera Cruz, Mexico (some sources indicate he was born in what is now Rio Arriba County, New Mexico). He was a child during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and witnessed six family member’s deaths when Vera Cruz was shelled by the U.S. Navy. Somewhere along the line, he and his brother, Jose Vivian Espinosa, along with several cousins, migrated to Colorado, where the embittered Mexicans began a reign of terror. In 1863, by their own admission, they killed more than 30 pioneers, in an extremely brutal fashion. According to local legend, Espinosa claimed to have had a vision from the Virgin Mary telling him to kill 100 anglos for every member of his family lost during the Mexican-American War.
Hotly pursued by lawmen, Espinosa sent a letter to Governor John Evans, threatening to kill 600 “Gringos,” including the governor, if he and the other members of the gang were not granted amnesty and some 5,000 acres in Conejos County, Colorado. The Governor soon called upon the U.S. Army to help track down the murderers in 1863. The soldiers then called upon frontiersman, Tom Tobin, to use his tracking skills to find them and bring them in dead or alive.
In September, Tobin was successful, and brought the heads of Felipe and his cousin, Julian Espinosa in a bag to Fort Garland, Colorado. Though Tobin was supposed to receive a $2,500 reward for thier deaths, he received only $1,500.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August, 2017.